Monday, March 31, 2008

meyer lemons

Today after a meeting downtown midtown and lunch with NH I decided to stop at Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center because I rarely ever get down there and I thought I might catch some decent prices on organic items (New York decent, of course).

As I pushed my cart around the produce section moodily, annoyed by the rain and general dreariness of the city and uninspired by the available produce, I prepared to pick up some eggs and go when I spotted organic meyer lemons for $2.99 a pound (not so bad considering the regular organic lemons were 99 cents each). I've been playing around with citrus cookies lately so this was a particularly inspiring sight.

Even moreso when I reached the counter and discovered that the five juicy lemons I'd selected were $2.99. Somehow I had chosen exactly one pound of lemons. Meant to be? I think so.

I'm thinking of using three to make lemon curd and the other two in a lemon and ginger pound cake. What would you make with a pound of meyer lemons?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

unconvinced: carved floral monstrosities

Noticed anything lately? That's right, I haven't actually had time to look at fantasy shoes lately. It's crazy enough trying to squeeze in a moment to make that pear crisp (I'm glad it won though)! Today I finally had a moment to glance at some shoes. As the spring/summer new arrivals keep rolling out though, I see a trend more disturbing than jelly shoes: floral shoes gone wild.

I know they were big on the runway at fashion week. Really big. As in, literally. Now that they're rolling out into stores, I'm not buying it.

These Chloe sandals have pretty carving on the heels, but are so clunky they lose all appeal. Saks, $550.

These are from Prada. Saks pre-order, $750.

At Neiman Marcus, it's same idea, slightly different execution with these. Prada, $720.

These are tamer in the shape department but I think the colors are ugly and unsubtle. I do like the idea of the flower on the sole. Also Prada. Neiman Marcus, $690.

Now, I know Prada knows how to do floral in a gorgeous way. How classic and pretty are these? Neiman Marcus, $590.

if you love it, stop washing it: hair

There are a lot of things I don't wash often in the interest of preserving them. Not in a disgusting, never-cleaned-my-sheets way, but any woman who has owned a perfect black cardigan or a silk jacket probably knows that the harshest thing you can do to your clothes is wash them. I'm a firm believer that some people wash their clothing far more than the need to and without nearly enough care. Then again, there are plenty of people who could probably put their jeans or sheets through the wash a few more times per year to great effect.

Besides clothes, one of the main things I do not wash all that often is my hair. This has been in the news in the past months, most notably in this article, which has a snarky and misleading title. It's mostly about women who eschew most at-home hair care in exchange for weekly washes and blowouts. I actually used to be one of these people, long before it was a mainstream trend, because it's a very common practice for the "control" of "ethnic" hair. Bloggers responded in many different ways. Some were repelled by the prospect of rarely washed hair (offensive!), some admitted that they weren't diligent squeaky-cleaners either. There was definitely some confusion on what constituted not washing one's hair (the Times implies it's someone else washing your hair in the salon, perhaps once a week).

For me, not washing my hair means massaging my hair/scalp with conditioner daily, and rinsing thoroughly. The only step I omit is the use of harsh detergents that leave my usually soft curls feeling pretty wiry. I wash my hair either when I get it trimmed at the salon (every six to eight weeks) or if I perform some activity that I feel has left my hair pretty dirty (swimming in a chlorinated pool, for example, or visiting a smoky lounge with my friends). My hair is not naturally greasy, in fact, it's a bit dry, especially when harshly treated with detergents and harsh stylers. For years, hair care professionals have told me that the best way to deal with dry hair, to keep it healthy and strong, was to stop washing and it turns out they were right.

It doesn't hurt that in a quest to get my hair healthy I cut it short (getting rid of some ill-advised highlights) and reduced heat styling to about once a month, but I don't doubt that limiting washing gives the oils in my hair a chance to do whatever it is they do. This is definitely not what most people want to hear, but in the long run it's probably better to work with whatever your natural texture is, unless you want to be one of those people wandering the mall with really frizzled out hair.

I'd ask if you wash your hair everyday (or at all) but I'd hate to start another argument...

neutrogena healthy skin blends sheer highlighting blush

So I've been thinking about blush lately (I'm going to pretend it isn't weirdly appropriate that I'm writing this while re-watching an episode from season one of Dexter on Showtime On-Demand), as one of those cosmetics that can work with very little else. Mascara absolutely falls into this category, and so I have about seven tubes of the stuff in my pencil cup, rather than in the serious makeup storage area. I don't do serious makeup every day, or even many days, it's a twelve times a year sort of deal, which I believe is good for my skin. I have good skin, which I understand is rare and fortunate, and wouldn't want to screw it up. Still, once in a while I sleep a little less than I'd like before showering and heading to class, and on those days, a swipe of mascara (right now I can't decide whether I prefer Cover Girl's Lash Blast or L'Oreal's Voluminous Naturale better-sooner or later I'll post about why I cop attitude about fancy expensive mascara) is something of a confidence boost. Blush, done right, is pretty and light for summertime.

I swore off blush around when I quit dancing and "acting" (not an actress, really bad liar) in school musicals and plays because stage makeup was gross and often applied by really aggressive stage mothers or aspiring "costume people". Blush then always seemed to be big pink or red badly blended patches on the apples of the cheeks. So yes, of course I gave up blush. Interestingly enough, I still love false eyelashes and wear them at every appropriate occasion. Go figure.

Anyway, all this so I can say that I tried this blush today:

The shade in the picture is "Vibrant" I'm pretty sure, but since I wanted something peachy and very warm for the summertime I went with the shade called "Healthy". I find most of Neutrogena cosmetics hues to have ridiculous names meant to make them sound healthier than they probably are, much like the smoothies at Jamba Juice. Silly name aside, I have never had a problem with any of their cosmetics and this was really no exception.

The color went on a little less bright than I might have expected, since the colors in the "blend" are a robust reddish terracotta, a softer but still bold melon, a soft creamy pink with some orange in it, and a rich bronze-y tone. It's probably a good thing it comes on less bright, it's very soft and pretty, extremely feminine. There is a good amount of shimmer in here, but because it is subtle, this is perfectly appropriate for day. I can't totally endorse it until I use it for a few things (maybe I'll even discover that the "Multi-vitamins and botanical conditioners" really "soften and smooth skin"), but I'm pretty and happy that I bought it. I do wish they'd streamline the packaging though; I'm sure most consumers have figured out that the tiny brushes that come with most cosmetics are pretty much useless. This blush is $12.49 at, not a terrible buy.

Fun fact, in one of my lectures the other day we learned that the scientific term for blushing is vasodilation.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spring Wardrobe Cleaning 1

While many people are weeding out their book collections (I wouldn't dare touch mine), summoning the energy to clean refrigerators, under-the-sink cabinets, and over-stocked pantries, I am spending a little extra time these days getting my closet in shape for the next season, and more importantly, for the next year.

For me, having most of my wardrobe edited, tailored, mended as needed and otherwise ready for use is one of the most important time savers. A friend once asked me why it took me so little time to put together outfits that made me happy in the morning. My answer remains the same: my standards aren't particularly low, it's just that when you are familiar with everything in your closet, and have taken steps to make sure everything that takes up space is in usable (preferably brilliant) condition, it is no more difficult to get dressed in the morning as to "cook" a bowl of cereal. Okay, it can be harder that that: fat days, weird weather days, injuries and so on can complicate things.

Over the next few days I'm not going to be writing about editing my wardrobe, because the Bargain Queens have already done a nice series on that a while ago. Instead, for me, spring wardrobe cleaning is about going through everything and making sure it is in tip top shape. Spring is an especially good time for this because soon enough (at least for those of us in the colder climes) it won't matter so much if we leave our wool coats at the cleaners for a few days or weeks. This is more minor, but I also feel that the lighter colored items that become more popular in the spring and summer (some sandals, floaty dresses, colorful raincoats, etc.) show wear more readily than some winter stalwarts (like black boots and heavy, dark coats). I know that in my haste to embrace autumn clothing at the end of balmy August and September, I (lazily) tend to thrust some of my summer clothes away without due consideration.

Here are the first two steps I am taking/have taken. As the numbering of this post suggests, I intend to update the blog as I add more tasks to my spring wardrobe cleaning adventure. This is one of the nicest features of this kind of "cleaning", rather than one big task, there is a series of smaller ones that can be squeezed in during your favorite television show or on the way to the gym.

1. Repair Shoes
Sounds simple enough, but I don't know enough people who repair their shoes consistently. In my experience, most people would rather wear shoes that are in bad condition, with nearly worn-through soles, missing lifts, peeling insoles and worse than spend twenty dollars to repair them. This is silly. Not repairing shoes is silly because buying new shoes is often more expensive than repairing old ones, and further, repairing old shoes that fill a need in any shoe wardrobe (like black pumps or brown flats) means that hard-earned money can go to adding additional shoes to the shoe wardrobe (!!) rather than constantly replacing the classics. Buying good classics in the first place, and repairing them as needed, is always a good buy.

One of the first things I did yesterday was go through my entire shoe wardrobe, and pick out the pairs that need obvious repairs. Before taking any of them to the local shoe repair man (make friends with yours), I considered whether each pair was worth the money it would require to fix them. If the shoes cost only fifteen or twenty dollars, and are not particularly well made, they might not be worth new heel lifts (the little piece on the bottom of the heel for the uninitiated, when it's missing often the metal inside the heel clacks annoyingly and even painfully on any hard surface) that will cost ten. In which case, if the shoes have truly outstayed their welcome, I say goodbye. Why throw away shoes? Because as cute as they may have been once if their condition is poor I will look silly wearing them. Say this to yourself as you part with those worn-to-shreds flats you picked up at Target. Of course, sometimes inexpensive shoes are worth the repairs. If it will make you cry to not have them anymore, consider taking them in for repair anyway (as long as they're still healthy for your feet). If they were an exceptional deal, which explains the low price, and so have good architecture and quality materials, get them repaired anyway. That's a bargain that keeps on giving.

In addition to taking in shoes that need obvious repair (new lifts, new soles, etc.) I looked at shoes that might be close to perfect, but have issues. The heels are too high (start thinking about insoles), the shoe is a bit dirty (see below), they make too much noise (have the cobbler-is that word still appropriate?-replace the cheap plastic heels/lifts the vast majority of shoes, even expensive ones, have with rubber, which will make them quieter and more comfortable). Think about why you're not wearing any specific pair and think about whether there are any solutions. This is going to hurt: if there are no solutions, give away or throw away. It's that simple. Stuff in poor condition makes an otherwise polished person look silly. Almost anyone is better off with two good pairs of shoes than ten pairs of mediocre shoes. One thing that helps me make sure I complete this task is to take the shoes out and put them in a bag, by the door, to take to the shoe repairman. It's too easy to forget or ignore the problem when the shoes are in the closet.

Plus, lots of times a good shoe guy can do lots of crazy things to make your shoes better! Don't be afraid to ask.

2. Clean (and repair if necessary) Purses
It's very easy to fall into a purse rut, no matter how many cute bags you own. There is that favorite, the one that actually stays on your shoulder (miracle of miracles), holds everything you need without seeming clownishly large, and hides dirt like a champion. And, if you're the kind of person who doesn't mind only having and using one or two classic bags, go for it. I almost wish I were more like that.

On the other hand, plenty of women have a closet full of chic and fun purses that serve a variety of purposes, and most of these get shoved into the closet or wherever accessories are stored, and ignored 80% of the time (this is a very scientific statistic, can't you tell?). This, like having old and busted shoes around, is asking for trouble. Once or twice a year, go through purses to remind yourself of what you have. Throw away, or better yet give away, bags you wouldn't be seen in public with anymore. If they're too worn/stained/etc to use in good conscience, either investigate cleaning and repair options or get rid of them.

Many bags can be cleaned or spruced at home. Check tags for washing instructions for bags made of canvas or similar. There are plenty of at-home leather cleaners and conditioners that can help remove small stains or discolored spots (like where your jeans rubbed some dye off on that leather bag) with ease. For big issues, and often for suede (although there are at-home options for suede), consider calling in the big guns. Having a purse cleaned professionally can be expensive, but if your leather tote was expensive to begin with, or is irreplaceable (be honest with yourself here) it can be worth the expense. Consider whether the additional use is worth the investment in a professional cleaning. Consider taking in purses one at a time to be repaired. Consider taking the bags that need some work done out of the closet. I store the ones I'm cleaning myself near the television so I can work on them while watching Top Chef and have decided to take some of my suede stuff in for cleaning, one piece at a time, this spring.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

Today I went to Easter services with my mother, and seeing all of the ladies out in fashionable hats and spring colors against the New York chill made me all excited for spring, and so do these Manolo Blahniks. Although the shoes are leather, the eyelet effect makes them so feminine and summery. They'd be lovely with a bright crisp green or chic navy. The shape is flattering for almost any leg because they don't have the dreaded ankle strap. These would be the perfect shoes for any lovely springtime frocks. At Neiman.

i wasn't even wearing a mickey mouse tee shirt

Have you ever had Bahama Breeze? Although I'm the last person to endorse what NH and I refer to as "family neighborhood chain" type places (Florida is known for it's glut of these, I'm pretty sure), I've been to Bahama Breeze a few times and they have some very tasty dishes if that casual, lots of crazy drinks, "island-influenced" feel suits your mood. This past Tuesday, jonesing for mojitos, coconut shrimp and indoor palm trees, my family headed to an Orlando Bahama Breeze for a dinnertime feast.

The meal was lovely. Not something I'd lovingly recount here (I'll spare you all loving recounts of all but homemade meals), but tasty, speedily prepared and unhurried. Unfortunately, while my four dining companions received exceptional and polite service, the waitress would have ruined my meal were it not for my family's fantastic sense of humor and willingness to coax away any of my impatience or annoyance.

It began with the drinks. Everyone, minus me, had drinks from the bar by the time we sat (there was a bit of a wait) down at the table, and so the waitress asked in a sugary sweet soprano whether she could get me anything to drink. The request in itself was innocuous, it's just too bad she felt the need to call me "sweetheart" and use that singsong voice. After I requested a glass of water and she wandered off my family and I immediately exchanged glances because we knew what we were in for: the waitress must have thought I was thirteen.

Her patronizing/coddling behavior continued throughout the meal. The highlight was, of course, when she felt the need to duck under the hanging light to get close to me and ask me what I'd like to have for dinner (she made no such contortions for the other guests at the table). She called me by a term of endearment at every turn, from "sweetie" to "honey" to "darling". Her voice adopted a special quality whenever it was my turn to order something. When I turned down a refill of water, she showed up with one anyway (I guess I didn't know what I wanted). Her behavior was exactly the sort of pandering to small children you might expect from someone hoping to earn a large tip from the children's parents, with the exception that her mistake in judgment meant that she was far more insulting than endearing.

Now, I recognize that I have a very young face, and that my outfit (a pair of straight skinny jeans, a flowing cotton tank top with a small floral print, and a navy blue fine gauge cotton sweater with a hood) did little to age me. I am no stranger to these mistakes; on Thursday afternoon at the airport a Continental employee asked my age (the first number is a 2) and then replied, "oh, well if you're under fourteen you need to check in as a minor traveling alone". I'm pretty used to it and try and accept it as a blessing (I doubt I'll complain if I'm carded at thirty). Still, I did everything I could short of directly informing the waitress of my age, to signal that her behavior was neither appropriate nor necessary. I spoke clearly, asked and thanked her politely for every service, and participated in lively but respectable (well, depending upon your definition of "respectable") conversation with my fellow diners. So why didn't she get a clue?

My feeling is that if someone is old enough to not order from the children's menu (not a crayon in sight at our table for five), then they should receive the same treatment as everyone else at the table, unless it's their birthday or some other such occasion. No one should be made to feel singled out or mocked when dining publicly, since meals out are an indulgence and should be a pleasure. That waitress diminished rather than elevated our experience, making me glad I was not at a restaurant at home, where I would be likely to see her again.

What are some negative restaurant experiences you've had? Would you have done something differently to remedy this situation?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

apologies & quick florida redux

Believe it or not, I had every intention to post every day of vacation, in fact, I had a whole list of things to post about. Caramelized Onion Rolls, the Cinnamon Buns I made with NH the night before I left, Disney World, the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, my new cellphone, Molasses Cookies, Horton Hears a Who. Where better to witness egregious breaches of etiquette and style than Walt Disney World? But the internet access at our hotel (or "villa" in Disney Vacation Club parlance) was attached to the wall in the master bedroom and slightly wonky, so I sat by the pool and went shopping instead.

That said, I plan to post on most, if not all of those things soon. I'll be back to normal very shortly, and making Pear Crisp (unless there's a last minute rash of votes for Cookie Dough Brownies) for your viewing reading enjoyment. That said, if you haven't voted yet, I strongly suggest you do, as the deadline approaches rapidly.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

Well, my toes are painted Essie Calypso and I've just bought a pair of Old Navy flip flops (no fancy Havaianas for me, flip flops are bad for your feet anyway and I only wear them to the pool or similar), in this pretty pearlescent cream that will look awesome with my sequined swimsuit. Yes, my swimsuit has sequins. It's not really for swimming anyway, more for sitting by the pool coated in SPF 45 and reading a book (or my Animal Behavior text).

I do not have these, but they are summery and fabulous enough for any vacation. The Claudia Ciuti Mimosa pump, available at Nordstrom, weaves together straps of orange, lavender and brown leather. The colorful leathers make an otherwise traditional strappy sandal/pump special, and while the colors are whimsical, the purple is right on trend for the season (I won't comment right now about how I feel about things that are on trend because I love this shoe). I think the lavender straps down the front would function like a v-neck for the feet, and I love the thoughtful but unobstrusive buckle, so that the wearer needn't wedge her feet into the shoe, tugging at the delicate shoe. Perfect with a sleek dress in a complementary color (earthy tones, like a coppery brown or a rich, sexy purple) or worn as a standout piece with something trim and white.

Friday, March 14, 2008

not housewife on the road in the air

I'm heading to Florida. Just for a few days, and oddly enough, largely due to my desire to see Horton Hears a Who with the people who introduced me to the delightful Seuss story.

As often happens, I am heading to warmer weather just as it turns here in New York, as in, I went for a Starbucks run this morning (I try to brew my own most days but I had a serious bout of insomnia last night that meant there was no way that I would be up to greet the Time Warner Cable guy between 10 and 2 without an americano) with no jacket or coat. I didn't wear a coat because I was too zombie-like to think of it, but I didn't need one anyway. I ordered my americano iced to celebrate. Maybe by Easter we can call Winter officially over.

Oh, and Time Warner Cable sucks. I probably didn't need to say that. There are plenty of Consumerist posts on the topic. Or maybe you have Time Warner Cable yourself and have experienced the special joy of dealing with their service team.

Despite all appearances this is not a random catch-all post; rather, I wanted to talk about children. Why? Largely because I am going to Disney World, and despite planning to spend only an hour or two in the theme parks, I anticipate seeing a lot of children. Also, when I return to campus, I anticipate seeing a lot of children because plenty of Manhattan parents treat this campus like a very large playground, despite the fact that the actual students pay a whole lot of money to play here. Now, since I'm not a parent I'm positive plenty of people will snicker and say "just you wait, when you have a kid you will understand that these are not the failings of poor breeding, but unfortunate side effects of having children". Maybe, but I think most of these things could be handled if people stopped coddling small children and their parents in public. Without further blathering, the top three reasons I no longer find children in public adorable:

Parents who do not pay attention to their kids, then blame other people. I live in Manhattan. It's a big, dangerous city with cars, subways and tons of people. I'm pretty sure those baby leashes (which I abhor, not the point) were invented for New York City. At least once a week, some three-year-old stumbles into my legs, jumps in front of me, or otherwise puts his/herself in risk of being injured by me. I was a small child (I'm a small adult too), and I know how terribly annoying it is to have big people run into you all the time, and hit you with their shopping bags. I keep my eyes out for delicate little hands and feet. Still, I regularly receive annoyed looks and comments from parents whose free-roaming children I have accidently bumped. Guess what? I cannot help it if your son saw something shiny on the sidewalk and ran toward me without looking. He's a child, he doesn't know better, but you should have been holding his hand rather than whining about something with your girlfriend. While I understand that you cannot keep your eye on the kiddo for every second or every day, not blaming strangers for your kid's erratic behavior is the minimum required by politeness. It would be exceptional to apologize for the child inhibiting someone else's journey (very annoying when I'm late for class), but I'll settle for not being called "thoughtless", "careless", "heartless" or any other "less" (except maybe "childless") just for walking normally down a busy city street.

Parents who do nothing about interruptive fits. People love to complain about this one so I will keep it short, but it bears mentioning all the same. Kids cry. Adults cry too (some even more than kids). If your kid is crying/screaming/tantrum-ing somewhere where other people are having something you could call an "experience" (shopping experience, movie watching experience, fine dining experience), be kind and bring the kid outside. Yes, we all feel really bad for you because you need to put down your fork and step outside with the six-year-old who just discovered a terror of marinara sauce. All the same, parents lose my sympathy the minute they allow fits to carry on when they are ruining movies or dinners for other people. You chose to bear children.

Parents who are seeming unaware of the effects of sugar on children. There is a reason sugar high is such a common term: too much sugar makes normally reasonable people bonkers. Theme parks are notorious sugar centers, with cotton candy, ice cream, popsicles and cookies available at every turn. Every kid deserves treats and all kinds of fun, but loading your kid up on sugar without controlling for the effects is really not acceptable. This is probably more important if the non-parent will be spending time in close quarters with the sugar high child (at a gathering for instance). It is completely uncool to feed your kid chocolate, lollipops, soda or even large bowls of pasta and then unleash them on an unsuspecting victim friend or relative. Figure out how sensitive your kid is to sugar and determine at what point it is no longer really fair to leave your kid to the supervision of others. I imagine some nannies/babysitters/day care workers and owners feel strongly about this as well.

I'll be blogging all week: rolls, cookies, massages and something about fruit. Oh, and if you haven't yet don't forget to vote in the poll, especially if you live near me, because there is a strong chance I will foist the results off on you to avoid eating them myself share the bounty of my baking chops with you.


I'm baking rolls right now, so that's coming.

But for those who caught, oh yes, Top Chef last night, can you not help pronouncing Zoi as if it rhymes with Koi rather than as if it rhymes with Chloe? I can't.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

If you were to look at the new arrivals on, you would find these magnificent shoes, by Stuart Weitzman, available for pre-order. If you were me, you might cry at their immense beauty, then rail against whatever higher being allowed such amazing sea blue patent leather four inch heels (and what an exquisite heel it is, notice how rarely I include a heel shot), to exist outside of your closet. Perhaps a shade outside of the realm of practicality, these beauties, retailing for just under three hundred bucks, fulfill several of my shoe fantasies at once. These are the sort of shoes I would put on in my house daily, just to see them on my feet, but wear outside only when I was sure there was very little chance of damaging them.

And yes, I have extensive shoe fantasies.

procrastination cauliflower

What to do when I have hours of writing and work ahead of me?

Decide to roast a head of cauliflower and two heads of garlic, of course.

This didn't come out how I planned (I wanted something somewhat firm and slightly caramelized), partially because I left the pan covered with foil too long in the oven, and partially because my housemates shut the oven off in the middle of cooking, probably because no one expects the oven to be on at midnight. The resulting cauliflower was still delicious but soft, and to exploit this, I'm eating some of the leftovers lightly mashed with a fork for lunch. This tastes nothing like mashed potatoes but is much more flavorful and little healthier. I could envision different herbs, spices or cheeses incorporated, but I like the simplicity of this preparation. This recipe is ridiculously easy and makes an often hated vegetable incredibly palatable. Plus, garlic is really good for you and this recipe has around fifteen cloves of it.

procrastination cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and rinsed
2 heads of garlic
olive oil
sea salt
(freshly ground) black pepper
pecorino, or some other hard grating cheese

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large baking dish (I used 13x9 Pyrex, I do wonder whether metal would improve caramelization) Pour a little olive oil into the bottom of the pan and spread it around. Toss the florets of cauliflower in the oil so that most have a light coating (do the oil to taste, I like to air on the side of caution with only a couple of tablespoons). Cut off the tops of the garlic heads so that all of the cloves inside are exposed. Don't be too precious about losing garlic--there will be plenty. In fact, if you don't love garlic as much as I do, you might want to use just one head. Put the exposed heads in the pan, nestling them in with the florets. Add a little more olive oil right into the open heads of garlic to prevent burning, and then salt and pepper the whole pan, and don't be shy. Cover with foil and bake for about 35 to 45 minutes, until the cauliflower is the texture you prefer. Now pluck those open heads of garlic out of the pan, they are full of one of the most delicious substances known to man: roasted garlic. Pop the cloves out by squeezing the head. If you are smarter than me you will let them cool slightly first. Mash the cloves with fork and toss thoroughly with the roasted cauliflower. Top the whole mess with grated pecorino and pop back into the over for a few minutes, uncovered, to melt the cheese. Eat.

Monday, March 10, 2008

poll: you tell me what to do, and i'll do it

Then, I'll post about it.

Please take a second to select an option, or even better, to suggest a recipe or even a concept (who doesn't love a challenge?) in the comments. I'll be on spring break (although I'll still post) next week so I won't bake whatever you guys pick until the week of the 24th.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

In honor of tonight's pistachio success, how cute are these pale green shoes from Nine West? Enclosed platform, the newly (or renewedly, if you prefer) trendy ruching-and-knotting detail, and a sexy slingback shape. The color is more minty than nutty, but they're fun and under $100. Available on Zappos and Nine West.

success: pistachio shortbread

If you life with me--and at least a few of you do--you might have noticed my obsession with pistachios this week. It started mostly out of forgetfulness, as in, I forgot how much I liked pistachios and then I ate some and promptly remembered. Pistachios are delicious, work really well in many desserts (they complement cherries, and chocolate, although the three together are kind of gross).

I had a lot of fun making shortbread last week, and decided to play around with the proportions and the flavors. These cookies are super decadent and tasty, although I wouldn't make them if you're not fond of pistachios, since they're loaded with that flavor. If I ever invest in an ice cream maker, I think an extra rich chocolate ice cream would be amazing with either some of these crumbled into it, or frozen chunks of the (conveniently eggless) dough mixed into it. For a gift, each heart (or square, flower, or star) could be dipped into dark chocolate. The done cookies are nice, pale pistachio green. You could dye them a deeper green, but I'd respect you less.

If I made these again, I would consider toasting the nuts first. Does anyone have any experience with toasting pistachios?

pistachio shortbread

12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar or confectioner's sugar (I pulsed the regular sugar with the vanilla in my magic bullet)
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 cup raw, unsalted pistachios, divided
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/4 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 325. Beat the butter until nice and fluffy. Beat in the sugar and vanilla thoroughly; you definitely want "light and fluffy". Pulse 1/4 cup of the pistachios in a magic bullet, blender or food processor until it's a nice, even, fine consistency, something like bread crumbs. Add the pistachio meal and almond extract to the butter and sugar and beat until uniform. Add the flour, one quarter cup at a time, until the dough almost forms a ball. Chop the last 1/4 cup of pistachios roughly and stir into the dough. Press into a square or similar shape of uniform thickness, I went for less than 1/2 inch. Pierce the dough throughout with a fork to prevent bubbling. Bake for twenty to thirty minutes, or until the edges are lightly golden. Cut with a knife or cookie cutters while the shortbread is still warm. Cool before storing.

For me, this recipe yielded 12 2-inch-ish hearts and a ton of "trimmings".

Friday, March 7, 2008

unconvinced: jelly shoes

Remember jelly shoes? I wore them at age 8. In fact, I had a pair I loved so much my mother had to pry them off of me and throw them out, threatening my life if the shoes emerged from the trash. This is a common theme in my childhood.

For the love of this blog, I spend a good amount of time looking at shoes from a variety of retailers at different price points, although most of the shoes featured here are fantasy shoes and so are often higher end. The first time I saw the jelly ballet flats that are becoming ubiquitous was while glancing through Target's website.

These are by Xhilaration, come in a variety of colors, and cost about $8. I would almost consider buying them for beach. Almost. If I ever went to the beach.

But then, while clicking around on Barney's site, I saw these.

They are by Marc Jacobs, and cost $160. No, that's not a typo. Sure, they have a cute little shape and unique heel but hello, they're jelly shoes.

It gets better. At Neiman's website, these Fendi jelly shoes are available. They come in a nice shade of pink too.

But they are jelly shoes. And they cost $175. And they have the dreaded ankle strap. Save me.

So I looked at Nordstrom.

Stuart Weitzman, ugly, made of plastic, and yours for $115.

Where does one wear these shoes? I can't imagine they're office appropriate. I think they'd be hot on your feet, and everyone knows synthetics cause blisters and sweatiness. I have a pair of grape-colored jelly thong sandals I picked up at Gap for $4 two summers ago that I hardly wear because that jelly plastic stuff kind of hurts. Also, if I'm remembering correctly, the jelly plastic gets dirty pretty quickly, especially the translucent kind (all three expensive pairs), which spells disaster since they're not easy to clean.

Even if you think they're cute, I can't imagine investing more than $10 on something like this. I'm unconvinced. How about you?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

perfect for vacuuming

You all must be very sick of me. Or at least of my passion for mary jane shoes. And peep toes. And patent. Wow, no wonder my readership remains small...

But the other day S and I were flipping through the J. Crew catalogue (and commenting on how as their prices rise and rise, their quality sinks), and I noticed these in yellow. I think the yellow ones are tacky and sort of florescent, but I thought the emerald would be lovely, and I think I was right.

Now, these are not a "shoe wardrobe" shoe, which makes their $198 price tag a bit hard to swallow. Still, they're pretty and shiny and would look magnificent with lighter neutrals or even with some nice contrasting pieces, especially pinks for the woman who can pull of that super-prep look. I really love the chunky buckle and how the front of the shoe is open enough to show off a really nice pedicure. At J. Crew, if their continual inflation hasn't frightened you off yet.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

shame and groceries

Apparently, many people are really, really opinionated about groceries. Over at Serious Eats there's a great discussion going on about those items we buy that we're not exactly thrilled to show off. Instant mashed potatoes (seemingly used, ubiquitously, in alternative applications like sourdough starters and potato bread) are proving popular, among luncheon meats and that stuff in the blue box Kraft insists on calling macaroni and cheese.

Part of me wants to laugh (who cares what you buy if it makes you happy) and part of me knows that deep down, I am a food snob too. I can't help it, my mother raised me that way, and stressed what I call "real food" over most processed conveniences. I was still a little kid when I began to eschew such American family favorites as that curiously sawdust-like cheese product in a green cylinder Kraft insists on calling parmesan cheese (ahem, real Parmesan must be shredded or grated or crumbled or shaved, at the table please). I glance over my purchases in the grocery store and even sometimes feel they portray a certain image, and feel satisfied that if I am what I eat (or at least what I buy at the market) then I have at least small cause for satisfaction. I cook, prepare or bake things that many people buy (bread, cookies, cake, soup, macaroni and cheese, salad). I try to buy organic dairy and produce. I like my chocolate dark, my coffee black and Lipton tea sort of terrifies me (NH keeps asking me if it's "brown" tea) , though I'll have it at Waffle House with my Cheese 'n' Eggs and Cinnamon Toast.

Still, I think it's a little silly to fret over conveniences that make our lives work out a little easier. My mom cooked plenty while I was growing up, but we also did plenty of nights of making our own toppings for a frozen pizza (I did this with NH this weekend, as we are both fiends for caramelized onions on our pizza), and I know she always had a box of instant mashed potatoes on hand, along with all kinds of stuff that a working mother needs: garlic powder (gasp!), taco seasoning (boo!), string cheese (agh!) and frozen stuff for snacks, like toaster strudel (no!). She emphasized health but it's not like she had time to be a gourmet chef three times a day, and you know what, I turned out fine. She taught me about eating good things, eating (not too many) bad things, and leaving time in your day for fun.

I once debated whether those Polly-o string cheeses that used to come with "pizza sauce" for dipping were an actual food with my friend's boyfriend. She and I, both very interested in healthful eating and checking out New York restaurants and cooking things like tofu or spinach, had loved the things as children. He mocked us endlessly for them. In the end he was probably right, presented with one of those things (or the pizza Lunchables I once embraced) today I probably wouldn't give them a nibble. In the end, that's not the point. How you eat and what you eat really is a personal decision, and no one should feel embarrassed to like string cheese, frozen burritos, or chicken nuggets.

I've caught people tossing discriminating glances toward shopping carts laden with soda, stacked with chips, or featuring a case of Easy Mac (I think I lived on that freshman year, sigh). This sort of behavior is really childish. It's impossible to know why someone else eats or buys what they do, and since it hardly affects anyone but the person doing the shopping and their immediate family, I'd like to advocate for keeping our eyes on our own carts. Even more so, it'd be nice to see people stop judging themselves for the products they love or use as timesavers. No grown man should feel he needs to engage in furtive Nesquick purchasing.

What are your favorite grocery conveniences?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

fat attack

Has anyone seen the Bowflex commercial where the "newly ripped" character says something like "I gave all my fat clothes to my fat friends"?

Does it disturb anyone else?

The first time I heard this I thought I was hearing wrong. Luckily, I was cleaning at the time, and I do like to leave the television on while cleaning (I also like to wear heels while cleaning) so I heard this repulsive comment again. I'm all for celebrating weight loss and physical fitness, these are great things and most of us could use more exercise. Still, I can't help imagining the conversation in which the Formerly Fat Dude (FFD) informs his Currently Fat Dude (CFD) friend that he is welcome to his fat clothes since FFD will now live the life of a hard body and relegate CFD to a life a perpetual obesity. I think this is really rude and it really irks me.

What do you think?

Monday, March 3, 2008

perfect for vacuuming: special edition

I needed to post these because they are amazing.

And saying that is enough. At Neiman's. Louboutin, but that was kind of obvious.

perfect for vacuuming

The sun is shining through my window, despite the bitter cold. Okay, that was just for dramatic effect. In New York it's actually very "spring" today, although the official start of spring is three weeks off, and I don't have spring break for another two. Digression aside, when I think spring I think lush colors in interesting shapes. I think about shoes that make me want to get a fresh pedicure and swap out my wool for a trench.

I think of these. I like the mix of purples. I like the subtlety of the enclosed platform (which has become so ubiquitous this year that it's making me a little sad). I even like the wood heel, a feature that turns me away from many otherwise delightful shoes. Here, the wood heel contrasts with the purples and makes the shoe right for warm weather. Weirdly, although these are not clogs, they make me think of that scene in Clueless when Cher's dad asks her what she did in school today and she says, "I broke in my purple clogs." The shoes are Giuseppe Zanotti and are available at Shopbop.

I also think of shoes like these. I don't usually like this heel shape, because I think it makes me look a little short, but the color is so pretty, a nice dusty teal. The back of the heel, which you can see in the second, is a really cool detail. I like the detailing of the leather too. I think these would be adorable with white pants. I never wear white pants (prefer skirts, white always ends up dirty), but that's just how I'm seeing these. Or a skirt to show off that stellar heel. These are Chloe and can be had from

Sunday, March 2, 2008

ginger vanilla bean shortbread cookies

I made these after reading this post over at Brownie Points. It's an old post but I happen to love ginger and I'd never made shortbread, so I decided to give it a whirl. I made some smallish modifications to the original recipe, so I've written up my version below. I used the vanilla beans largely because I was out of vanilla extract, but I like the speckled appearance of vanilla-bean baked goods. I didn't do the lemon curd, since I was just looking for a simple procrastination project. I think if I made these again I would try and pump up the ginger by adding some ground ginger to the ginger-sugar mixture. I'd also cut down the salt.

ginger vanilla bean shortbread cookies

1/3 cup crystallized ginger
1/3 cup white sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a food processor or similar (I used my magic bullet because I don't keep a food processor at school), whir up the crystallized ginger and white sugar until you have a fluffy powder. In a small or medium mixing bowl, beat the butter with a mixer until it is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla bean scrapings and ginger-sugar mixture to the butter and beat until light and fluffy. Now add the flour and salt and mix until dough forms. Since I used a hand mixer, the dough never really formed a ball, but it worked out fine anyway. Put the mixture onto an ungreased cookie sheet or other shallow pan and press into a rectangle of even thickness, about 1/2 inch (or your desired thickness). Use a fork to pierce holes all over to avoid bubbling. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until light brown around the edges and set. If you'd like shapes, cut them out while the shortbread is still warm. I cut mine into 1-1 1/2-inch bars while it was still nice and warm. Cool before packaging.

Yields about 20 1-1 1/2-inch bars.